The single greatest benefit from crop consultancy at a distance? Leo van Uffelen has no doubt: It’s the speed. The crop consultant believes that remote advice is the future in horticulture. Convincing the sector can be tough. But Leo has a weapon: data.
Leo works as an independent crop consultant who’s specialized in pot plants. He sees that remote crop consultancy is on the rise. However most of the growers keep being skeptical. Especially the older generation, says Leo, who emphasizes that he is part of this generation.
“Even if I provide evidence and make sure the plants are ready for delivery in time, they cling on to their old methods. Understandably, because they always relied on their feelings while growing. We didn’t have real-time data back then. It’s easier to convince the younger generation. Nowadays, we have the tools. So we have to use it. We are able to grow without relying on feelings.”
Consulting at a distance makes a better advice
Leo is in the middle of his weekly visiting round when we talk to him. Once a week he walks through his clients greenhouses to see if the data corresponds with how the crops really look. Just to make sure that the plants are ready for the next stop in the supply chain.
He says that consulting at a distance simply makes his advice better. It’s a big contrast compared to his old methods.
“Back then, I also made my weekly rounds,” Leo tells us. “If I noticed some bleaching in the leaves, I advised to use the screens differently. During my next visit a week later the bleaching disappeared, but a new problem occurred. The screening caused a decrease in light, which led to a slower growing pace. Nowadays, I’m not depending on that weekly visit anymore. I can always check the current climate settings of the greenhouse.”
The big advantage is that he doesn’t have to be on location to provide tailored advice. It makes consultancy faster. It is crucial that his data loads directly, emphasizes Leo: “As soon as I have data, I can consult. No data, no advice.”
Instant analyzing the climate settings
“The data gets imported real time into the 30MHz platform. As soon as measurements are outside of the setted limits, I receive an alarm. Then I log into the system, check the climate settings and analyse what’s going on. Next I take a screenshot and send a message to the grower. That’s how quick and direct crop consultancy at a distance is.”
On the 30MHz platform Leo created various dashboards to keep track of data flows. Like PAR, leaf temperature and vapour pressure deficit (VPD). From his own home he scans these dashboards. On his weekly round he uses the dashboards to substantiate possible points of improvement for his clients.
The value of these dashboards reaches further. He uses them to locate limits. An example: “I keep up on the amount of light a plant gets before the leaves start to yellow. The sum of light can be huge and that leads to a stronger plant. The crucial thing is to prevent the peak in lightning. These peaks can cause yellowing. I use the PAR sensor to measure such peaks. By adjusting your screen settings you can flatten the peaks and still reach the desired PAR sum."
More information about the lightning peaks? Leo shared his tips for a PAR dashboard.
The future of crop consultancy?
In conclusion, the digital tools for consultancy at a distance are available. Leo uses a data platform and sensors. Will his advice soon be completely remote? “I will keep doing my weekly rounds. The importance of seeing the plants with the bear eye will stay. Because sometimes there are circumstances that require extra attention. Like a heatwave or a frosty week. In horticulture you can experience extreme days. So no surveillance at all won’t work for me.”